Russian President Vladimir Putin will soon visit Turkey on his first trip to a NATO country in four years. Putin’s foreign policy adviser, Yuri Ushakov, told the Interfax news agency that a visit is “being prepared.” He will meet with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whom he last met in the Russian city of Sochi last September. Mr. Ushakov confirmed that the Ukraine war will be the primary discussion topic. Turkey has not joined in with Western sanctions on Russia but has opted for an intermediary position and hosted peace talks in 2022.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky spoke to President Erdogan on the phone in early January, and the Turkish leader assured Zelensky that Ankara was ready to help “establish lasting peace, stability and prosperity.” Turkey, however, has also told Ukraine that it must “soften its position.”
Putin last visited a NATO nation in 2020 when he met with then-German Chancellor Angela Merkel, but he is now barred from Europe under sanctions, and because of an arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court last year.
When Putin and Erdogan met in Russia in September, they discussed bringing Moscow back to the Black Sea grain deal negotiations that the Russian leader walked away from in July.
The deal facilitated grain export from Kyiv, and the United States accused Moscow of using it as a weapon against Ukraine and disrupting food production to drive prices up.
Meanwhile, China has moved from its early position as a potential mediator and aligned itself more openly with Russia. Chinese leader Xi Jinping has helped bring Moscow in from the cold on the world stage, inviting Putin to the Belt and Road Summit in Beijing in October. The Russian President’s first international trip following his invasion of Ukraine was to China, and Chinese academics and writers repeatedly refer to the war as a “crisis” and one that is increasing the risk of conflict between Russia and the United States.